As announced late Saturday afternoon at the Aspen Comics panel at New York Comic-Con, Scott Lobdell looks to take the plunge and make a splash at Aspen next year when he launches the fourth volume of the comic company’s flagship title, “Fathom.”
Originally published by Top Cow Productions as artist Michael Turner’s first creator-owned series, “Fathom” restarted in 2003 under Turner’s then recently founded comics company named after the title’s lead character, Aspen. “Fathom” follows Aspen Matthews, a young woman who possesses powerful water-based abilities and who discovers that she actually descends from two warring races of underwater humanoids known as the Blue and the Black. A number of miniseries and follow up volumes sprung from the original title, exploring various characters from the universe and furthering the adventures of Aspen as she struggled to bring peace between not only her aquatic people, but between them and humans as well.
Lobdell first entered the world of Aspen Comics earlier in 2010 with the limited series “The Scourge” and continues his stay at the comics company with the news of his new writing duties on the upcoming “Fathom” Vol. 4. The well known writer – a fan favorite for his work on countless X-Men titles in the ’90s and creator of “Generation X” – spoke with CBR News about the latest installment in the “Fathom” franchise, his approach to the series’ leading lady and who he believes is the best water-based character in comics.
CBR News: Scott, you’ve been all over the comics industry and this year you finally took a stroll into Aspen with your limited series “Scourge.” From there, how did you end up coming onto “Fathom?”
Scott Lobdell: Well, I’d known Frank [Mastromauro], Vince [Hernandez] and Peter [Steigerwald] for years from the convention circuit. When I started “Scourge,” it was the first time working with the company and apparently they were so excited by that book that they asked me out for lunch. I took that as their way of saying, “Here is a hamburger for your effort.” [Laughs] Halfway through the conversation they said, “You’re probably wondering why we invited you out to lunch,” and I was like, “To eat?” They said, “No, actually. We were wondering if you would take over ‘Fathom?'” I was flattered and excited and I think that I said yes.
What’s it like for you coming onto “Fathom?” It’s the company’s flagship book, after all.
It’s an honor. It’s been a while, but there’ve been a few companies over the years that I was able to flagship for. That’s always exciting, but you try not to think about the impact about the book you’re doing on the rest of the universe and the other books in the line. You really need to try and concentrate on making that book the most entertaining book you can be. That’s the good thing about Aspen. “Soulfire” and “Fathom” aren’t really tied into one universe, so that makes the notion of working on “Fathom” all about making sure those 22 pages a month are fun and interesting and sad and sweet and adventurous and all those things you look for in a good story. I’ll say this, when you step into a character, there are fans who are fiercely dedicated to that character and the continuity that’s been established and everything. That’s sometimes an issue when you take over a book at a company, but in this particular case, there are no bigger “Fathom” fans than Frank and Vince and Peter and Mark. All the guys that work there are huge “Fathom” fans. So even before I get to the readership, there is this whole other layer of fans that I must pass through. Having said that, they were very excited about the pages of notes I gave him.
Well, what can you say about those plans you have for the series?
I’ll tell you what I told them: I’m not the biggest planner in the world. I like to be surprised by the characters and what’s happening. I still know where I’m going, but the chances are that while I start the book knowing what the last page is going to be, by the time I get to the last page, I’m surprised by something that will bring me into the next episode. Sometimes it’s spot on and exactly the way I planned it. Other times, it surprises me. I suggested to the guys that whatever [ideas] get approved might not be the ones that make it to print. Just like all of us can start our day off intending to run to the store and buy milk and eggs, but the end of the day you bought more stuff or won the lottery or your sick mother calls and you have to stop what you’re doing and drive across country to take care of her. You never know what will happen in life and that’s always been my philosophy about comic book writing.
While you’re certainly known for yourinventive storylines, you’re also very keen on delving into and exploring characters. In that regard, what are your thoughts on the character of Aspen Matthews? How will you be approaching her in the series?
I think that Aspen has spent a lot of time being manipulated by people. I think that started in the first issue and continued throughout. People are always trying to get her to “do this” or “go here and do that.” What I really wanted to do was pick up her story about a year after the last time we’ve seen her and establish her as a specialist in marine life that is respected around the world. Because really she’s the only marine biologist in the world who can walk to the bottom of the ocean and look around and hang out with these creatures and life forms. She can be in environments that would crush or freeze a real human being. James Cameron can go down in his bathyscaphe and look around, but really, Aspen Matthews is the only person who has been there and come back and can go as many times as she wants to. That’s where I wanted to start to her, as a self-actualized young woman who has these set of skills that make her unique and sought after and respected.
You have experience juggling multiple characters, and “Fathom” readers know that the series contains a pretty sizable cast. That said, will this book be focusing on Aspen or will it be a bit ensemble in its presentation?
She will be having an ensemble cast. But as of right now, she wants to put a distance between her and the last few years of her life, so stories will be about her in another city with other people. As of right now – and this can change – none of those characters [from earlier stories] that will appear. There might be a cameo or two here or there, but most of this is about her and her new life. What is interesting though is that they used to used we only use 10 percent of our brain and 90 percent is still untapped. I think that there’s this talk about the Blue and Black and undersea races, and as near as I can tell, we’ve only seen about 10 percent under the ocean so far in the three volumes. We’ve seen a slight, slight sliver of what is down there. I think putting her in a situation where she is exploring a big new world under the ocean is really, really fascinating.
One last thing I wanted to ask is, we talked about Aspen being a really cool water-based character, but another one of those characters is Aquaman. So, who is cooler?
[Laughs] It’s hard to say. Aquaman is a boy and Aspen is a girl. I guess that makes them pretty even so far. I would have to say that I think if Aspen can learn to radiate concentric circles from her forehead and if she can find that one perfect pink seahorse of her own…up until then it’s neck and neck. I think Aspen is one pink seahorse away from taking the title definitively.
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